I wrote this little article a few years ago when my oldest child was tiny. Three babies later it still applies, and I get reminded of it on a regular basis, as I now have not just one, but four lil peeps that I awaken for at night. It’s much more occasional now, but still….
One night, as I was awakened for the second, or perhaps the third time by my baby needing me, the Lord gave me a revelation concerning nighttime mothering. I was rather frustrated, feeling that I would never get a real night of sleep, annoyed at my child for waking me, and internally whining to myself about how much I suffered to take care of my little one.
Without warning, a phrase popped into my head: nighttime mothering. It took me by surprise, as I was not in the mood for an attitude adjustment, nor was I in the frame of mind to conjure up some sentimental reason to be excited to be awake with my crying baby. And yet, I found myself strangely warmed and completely changed by the concept. With those two words I discovered a secret to motherhood, and a way to keep myself happy even in the middle of the night.
The essence of nighttime mothering is this: Motherhood is not a nine-to-five job. Nor is it nine-to-nine. Ah, if only it were that simple! Then I could awaken in the morning when I wanted to, get myself ready, then care for my precious baby all day, loving, caring, doing my motherly duty to the babe, fulfilling my role to the utmost, then, magically, at bedtime, I could put the little one to sleep, and clock out until the morning rolled around again.
But motherhood is not like that. At least, mothering is not. For mothering is more than simply bearing a child. It is giving one’s heart, soul, and body to nurture, love, and care for the real and imagined needs of a tiny human being. And mothering does not cease at sundown.
My desire as a mother is to portray tenderness, compassion, and gentleness to my babes. To be there for them when they call, to foresee and meet their needs even before they cry out. This is a huge job! It requires much more than I am physically, mentally, and emotionally able to give. And I desire to mother them not only during the day, but at night as well. Nighttime mothering is more difficult than daytime mothering, in my opinion, for it takes place at night, when nature itself sleeps. To be awakened time after time in the night would try the patience of the most noble of characters. And yet, as a mother, it happens to me on a regular basis.
Being the kind of person I am, I want my response to my child in the night to be holistic—caring and nurturing not only in form, but also in attitude. I wish for my whole person to respond correctly, as I see it, to the nighttime calls from people much smaller than I am.
This is where nighttime mothering comes in. That night as I stood, groggily, by my baby’s bassinet, wishing I were still in my own comfy bed, and complaining inwardly about my martyr’s life, I realized that nighttime mothering is impossible on my own. Impossible without the help and grace of the God who not only made me a mother, but also gave me a mother’s heart. I discovered that even in the wee hours of the night, He stands with me, ready to give me grace prepared for that very moment. I have only to take it from His hand. Do I always receive His grace and fulfill my mothering call? That night I was able to. And now? Well, I am getting better at it. And He is faithful to remind me.